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Dark Triad

The Risks of Rushing Into Romance

Understanding emophilia and its links to the Dark Triad.

Key points

  • "Emophilia" is a trait characterized by “falling in love fast, easily, and often.”
  • Rushing into relationships may result in choosing partners with Dark Triad traits.
  • Dark Triad traits generally predict short-term rather than long-term mating success.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Source: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

We all know people who seem to always be in a relationship, reportedly head over heels for someone new. But according to research, people who are always romantically involved may be sacrificing quality for quantity.

Looking for Love in the Dark—the Passion of Emotion

Jacqueline Lechuga and Daniel N. Jones (2021) discuss the concept of emophilia, a trait characterized by “falling in love fast, easily, and often,” in connection with gravitating to prospective paramours with Dark Triad traits.[i] They recognize that emophilia creates a tendency to ignore red flags and rush into relationships, which may mean choosing the wrong partners.

The Dark Triad is composed of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism, personality traits the authors recognize are interpersonally toxic, but considered by some to be attractive. In their research, Lechuga and Jones found that emophilia had a unique, strong relationship with being attracted to people high in dark personality traits. In fact, they note that emophilia was the “best predictor of attraction” to people who were high in Dark Triad traits.

Across two studies, Lechuga and Jones found that individuals who were high in emophilia were most attracted to any target, including people who were high in Dark Triad traits, even when controlling for other traits that were relationship-relevant. They conclude that people with emophilia, because of their sense of feeling early love, may overlook the downside of dark personality traits, or even find them attractive.

Lechuga and Jones recognize the relational danger of becoming involved with Dark Triad individuals, because dark personality traits are characterized as low in empathy and connected by a “common core of callousness and manipulation.” They also note that Dark Triad traits are viewed as socially undesirable because of their association with antisocial behaviors. In addition, they recognize that people high in any Dark Triad traits, particularly psychopathy, are relationally aggressive in short-term settings, using tactics such as coaxing or coercion. At the extreme, they point out that Dark Triad traits have been linked with attitudes enabling bullying and rape.

Seeking the Short Timer

Lechuga and Jones note that although there are facets of Machiavellianism and narcissism that may lend themselves to long-term relationship purposes, Dark Triad traits generally predict short-term rather than long-term mating success. They acknowledge that some people consider some Dark Triad traits, such as Machiavellianism and narcissism, to be both socially attractive and useful in different contexts. Consequently, they recognize that even though Dark Triad traits are inversely associated with relationship length, these personality constructs may still offer an evolutionary advantage.

Slower and Steady Is Safer and More Satisfying

Rushing into relationships may simply lead to more of them. True, one facet of a healthy, satisfying union is quality of time spent together, not quantity. But it takes time to know whether you are actually experiencing quality time, not just the passion of infatuation. As many singles attest, if they had moved more slowly and had a chance to spend time with a prospective paramour in different settings, they would have spotted red flags much earlier.

Falling love is wonderful, and for some people can happen swiftly. But apparently, falling in love slowly and surely is more likely to lead to relational success.

Facebook image: MDV Edwards/Shutterstock


[i] Lechuga, Jacqueline, and Daniel N. Jones. 2021. “Emophilia and Other Predictors of Attraction to Individuals with Dark Triad Traits.” Personality and Individual Differences 168 (January). doi:10.1016/j.paid.2020.110318.

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